Roger Federer is a tennis legend who says he owes much of his success to becoming a father.
The 20-time Grand Slam winner, who announced his retirement earlier this month, is the father of twins Myla and Charlene, 13, as well as twin brothers Lenny and Leo, 8, with wife Mirka.
He says becoming a father represented a change in his approach, especially when his daughters arrived as he hit a cold spell when it came to winning major tournaments.
“I have twins, as you know, Myla and Charlene. They were born in 2009, right after I became, I think, number 1 in the world,” he told Savannah Guthrie in an exclusive interview on TODAY, September 21.
“The girls were born and from that moment, 2010 and 2011, I didn’t win any slams. I remember changing diapers, bathing the girls and just being a dad. But then when the boys were born, I mean, it rocked the boat, obviously, because going on the road with four kids every week was tough, to say the least. And from maybe being the dominator I became the challenger. And I liked that role, too. I was really hungry the whole time.”
When Savannah suggested that not all athletes would insist on taking their family on the road with them, Federer said it was obvious.
“Oh, it was the only way,” he said. “I said, ‘I would never go on the road without my kids.’ And then I prefer to retire. So I would have had to retire 10 years ago.”
Federer will leave professional tennis as one of the most dynamic players in the game, but he had to grow up in the role, giving credit to his own parents for raising him while also letting him mature.
“I think they had a good balance, and I must have loved the game too,” he said. “They just didn’t like it when they went on weekends to tennis tournaments and I behaved like a brat on the court and yelled and yelled and commented and threw racquets and I was unprofessional and didn’t have my drinks ready or whatever. ”
“All my generation of friends, we were all the same. We were all insanely crazy at the time,” he added.
Federer’s decision to retire will also end his feud with other big names on the court, including Rafael Nadal. That rivalry eventually gave way to admiration and friendship, which Federer credits to mutual respect and for their families.
“I think both families respect each other a lot, my parents, his parents,” Federer said. “Both teams, yes, it got heated and it was intense at certain times. Naturally, sometimes you get a little agitated with each other, but I think, overall, always me and Rafa, we always managed to keep a cool head throughout. ”
Federer, who graduated as a pro playing against Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi and is due to play one last time in the Laver Cup in London from September 23, says he hopes he’s done the game proud.
“I feel like we’ve pushed tennis in the right direction,” he said. “And I think I did it my way. I always stayed true to myself and people always, it seemed, loved watching me play, which I think is the highest compliment.”